Smoking causes more anxiety than quitting


Quitting smoking is a popular New Year’s resolution, and with good reason. It’s undeniably unhealthy. Additionally, the smoker is getting pushed out of the building, across the street and into a designated corner. Social isolation doesn’t feel good to anyone.

But perhaps even more significant, especially to people with diagnosed mental health problems, a recent study found that quitting smoking reduces anxiety.

Smoking may cause anxiety, not relieve it

New findings in a report published in the British Journal of Psychiatry challenge the widely held notion that quitting smoking may make you edgy and nervous.

“The belief that smoking is stress-relieving is pervasive but almost certainly wrong. The reverse is true: smoking is probably anxiogenic (causes anxiety) and smokers deserve to know this and understand how their own experience may be misleading,” the researchers wrote.

Anxiety dropped after quitting

The study followed 491 smokers who used nicotine patches. Their anxiety levels were assessed each week at appointments. Slightly more than 21% had been previously diagnosed with mental health problems.

After the study, 68% stayed smoke-free. Those who successfully kicked the habit showed a drop in anxiety.

A failure to quit may increase anxiety

“There is no obvious causal mechanism other than those who relapse feeling concern rising from the continuing health risks of their smoking,” according to the report.

“In summary, stopping smoking probably reduces anxiety, and the effect is probably larger in those who have a psychiatric disorder and who smoke to cope with stress. A failed quit attempt may well increase anxiety to a modest degree, but perhaps to a clinically relevant degree in people with a psychiatric disorder and those who report smoking to cope.”

Source: British Journal of Psychiatry

Photo by John Nyboer


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